Hola, Amigos y Familia!
Officially one month into the mission , and I don't even know where the time has gone! It feels like I just showed up here a few days ago and miraculously learned how to mas o menos speak in Spanish haha...
This week has been kinda rough on me personally... Not because of any poor teaching, or teachers stopping me in the middle of my lesson but just a question that had been lingering in my mind the past week. "How can I teach with power and follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost if I can't even perceive the difference between what might be my own thoughts and what are actual assertions of the Spirit?"
My answer to this question came from 2 very spiritual men. I don't even remember the name of the first, but he was the speaker at our night Devotional, and the second was Elder David A. Bednar, in a video our teacher Hermano Mitchell showed us in class. They both had relatively the same message in response to my question. Elder Bednar said it the most bluntly so I'll quote him. "All too often, people spend too much time worrying and wondering whether a thought has originated from their own minds or the Spirit. My counsel? Stop it! It doesn't matter. If it is a good thought, just do it." I'll follow up his quote with the scripture I found relating to this, Alma -- "Whatsoever is good cometh from God." This is exactly what I needed to hear at this time because I think I'm always trying to decipher the thoughts and feelings I have into 2 categories: either my own or promptings of the Spirit. When in reality I have come to learn that I was going about it all wrong. We are all just as capable of being inspired on our own as we are through the Holy Ghost. I learned that I need to stop worrying so much on the thoughts and feelings, and focus more on the actual actions. The speaker related his personal experience with this by saying that as a mission president he would sometimes have one of his elder's name pop into his head while driving, and without hesitating he would call that elder and leave a message saying, "Elder, I don't know why... but you are on my mind. Will you call me back and tell me how things are going, so that I can figure out why?" And then shared some pretty phenomenal stories of the results of acting on these positive thoughts.
I came across a Mormon Message video that I really liked, and then looked up the actual talk and saw just how good it actually was. The talk was called "Come unto Me With Full Purpose of Heart, and I Shall Heal You" by Elder Patrick Kearnon of the Seventy. In it was a great story about his encounter with a scorpion as a child. I don't want to ruin it, so I'll just encourage everyone to go onto LDS.org and either search for scorpion and watch the mormon message, and/or search for the title of the talk and watch it! I promise you won't regret it. PS -- He has a sweet British accent... Ladies ;) hahahaha
Another thing I have learned during my month at the MTC is the importance of memorization as one of a missionary's greatest tools. The ability to recall specific scripture verses in an instant based on the conversation with an investigator is an ability that cannot be understated! Luckily I have a fairly good ability to memorize. Just the other day, I memorized Joseph Smith's first vision in Spanish in 30 minutes when our class goal was to memorize it bynight. I then used it in our following lesson, and amazed my teacher (AKA Investigator).
Every day we get about an hour of gym time to play volleyball, basketball, or just go for a jog. Obviously I play basketball, and yesterday I was on fire! It was legendary. I was even playing against one elder who plays college ball for BYU Hawaii, and afterwards got serious respect from him. I started off the game hitting one 3. By the end of the game I had hit 10... In a row! I had not missed a single 3 the entire game, and went 10/10 which HAS to be some sort of MTC record hahaha! Which makes me kind of sad that the only sport I'll get to play in Chile is soccer.
I also thought I'd give the missionary look a try , so I attempted to part my hair. Haha, I needed a crap ton of gel to do so, but I did it... once. Never again! It was the funniest looking comb-over part you will probably ever see. I'll have to get a picture from one of my companions of it.
The 4 of us Chilean Elders have also developed the growing fashion trend of "Nametag Swag!" which is this goofy thing we do with the placement of our nametags while we're not wearing our suitcoats. So occasionally they'll go on the tie, or hang off of our belts, or -- as we just tried last night -- our ears. Things can get kind of repetitive around here so we had to come up with a way of mixing things up a little.
I don't really have a very good funny story that happened this week so instead I'll share a spiritual story and my semi-funny funny story.
Last Conference Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave one of the most moving, bold, and personally one of my favorite talks. It is titled "The Greatest Commandment" and is largely based off the experience of the Apostle Peter and Jesus Crist following his resurrection. I learn something new about this talk every time I read or listen to it, and this time I learned that this talk (not the exact one, but one extremely similar) had actually been given years before at the MTC as it related to missionary work. These are a few notes that I took from hearing this talk given at the MTC:
- I have come on this mission to "feed his sheep" because "I love Him"
- There is no turning back from this calling [a missionary], not even after my 2 years are over, without breaking the heart of those around me and the Lord's
- Peter became the greatest apostle, amid his rejecting of Christ at Gethsemony, and all his other faults prior to the resurrection of Christ, because he turned away from his prior life for the last time and became an Apostle of God --> a fisher of men
- This [missionary] is not a temporary calling. While yes, we have been set apart solely as a missionary for these next 2 years, missionary work never ends. We are bringing salvation to the world by spreading the word about Christ's restored church and the Plan of Salvation.
My teacher, Hermano Mitchell, then shared this story:
"There were 3 pigs hanging out, having a good time when their other pig friend came up and was like "Hey! I learned how to fly! If you want to learn come follow me to the barn." So of course the 3 pigs wanted to learn, and headed over to the barn. The pigs were all thinking the same thing when they got to the barn and saw the other pig on the top level of the barn -- "Yeah right, there's no way this guy can actually fly..." But to their amazement he took off and began to fly around the barn. He then came down and began to teach the other pigs how to fly and after a while they were all flying. A few hours "fly" by (bu-dun, psh!) and they all decide to head home. So they say their goodbye's and walk home.
The moral of this little story is to relate to our lives after our missions. We have all been taught how to spiritually fly -- we are so inture with the Spirit, our language and teaching skills have improved by leaps and bounds, our scripture study and praying habits have been molded into everyday activities. We have learned and lived a supremely righteous life, that it would be such a waste to simply go back to the way we were before the mission and "walk home after learning to fly." The habits we learn and develop during these 2 years don't/shouldn't just disappear after we return home.
And now the semi-funny, funny story of the week!
On the first night with my new companion the question was asked, "Hey Elder Harper, you don't snore right?!" He responded with a confident "No way!". Well this past week the truth has been revealed... Normally I have been going to bed about 10 minutes before he does and so I had never witnessed him sleeping, however this past week roles were reversed and I was the one going to bed after he was. I quickly learned that I have been rooming with a grizzly bear this entire time! I try to fall asleep at night, and even when I'm totally exhausted I can't focus on anything but his loud breathing so I lay in bed wide awake. However, night I get up out of bed around and move out into the living room of our apartment and finally got some sleep on the couch... in fact some of the best since being here. And we've agreed now that is where I will be sleeping for the next 2 weeks so that I can fall asleep.